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Thursday, 29 October 1970

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - This proposal is for extensions to Avalon Airport. This is in my electorate. Whilst there is some commercial advantage on a short term basis to some people in my electorate from this proposal, I think that, on a long term basis, the adoption of this report and the construction of these facilities would have an extremely damaging effect on the future development of the area. I think that that far outweighs any short term' benefits which may accrue. The last set of figures which I obtained from the then Minister for Civil Aviation - the present Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) - indicated that at Avalon airfield 41,000 aircraft movements occurred in one year. The report indicates that at the present time the airfield is capable of accepting 25 movements an hour. Qantas Airways Ltd has 12 landings and 12 takeoffs an hour, which is 24 movements an hour. lt is proposed to extend the capacity of the airport so that 38 movements an hour can take place, and it is also proposed to strengthen the runways to take Boeing 747 aircraft and, as also mentioned in the report, Concorde aircraft.

The Department of Civil Aviation, in referring this matter to the Public Works Committee at such a late stage, has obviously tried to create a situation in which there can be no alternatives. Most likely it has successfully done this. But the facts of the matter are that the Department and the Minister were aware 2 years ago that this development was to take place. In an answer to a question I asked the then Minister he indicated that for some time after the arrival of Boeing 747 jets it was expected that training operations would be carried out at Avalon. The report indicates that the new facility at Avalon will be a temporary one that will operate for about 5 years. If this is so, it is still unsatisfactory, because both international commercial jets and the domestic jet fleet will be carrying out their training operations from an airfield which, despite what the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) says, is in a built-up area and is so located that, according to the experts of the Department of Civil Aviation, training is not possible on flight paths which do not take the aircraft directly over the townships of Lara and Little River or very close to them. If we increase the number of aircraft operating in the area and the rapidity with which those aircraft operate, we are automatically militating against the future development of the area and asking those people who have built their homes or who are building their homes in the area to accept a situation which no person should, if it is avoidable, be asked to accept.

I believe that the part of the report which criticises the Department for its tardiness in development is well warranted criticism. It is obvious to everyone concerned that to spend $6.4m on temporary extensions to an airfield in an unsatisfactory position, thereby causing serious inconvenience and retarding development in an area, is a very poor way to spend Government funds when, according to the report, for the expenditure of something in excess of $15m a proper training facility could be provided which would for many years adequately serve the airlines of Australia and the international operator, Qantas. No-one is so stupid that he wants to retard the progress of Australian airlines. We do not want to do that. But to place a training facility in a centre which has within a radius of 15 miles from it about 150,000 people - within 5 years there will be in excess of 200,000 people, most of whom will at times be under the flight paths and some of whom will be constantly under the flight paths of training aircraft - is an act of criminal negligence by the Department concerned.

I believe that this House should censure the Government, not the Public Works Committee because it was placed in the unenviable position of being given no chance to consider the proposal because it was presented with a timetable which made it impossible for it to bring down a recommendation which really fitted the situation. I realise, and I think anyone who knows the area concerned realises, that there are people who, because of their employment or because of their prospects of employment in the future, consider this development a worthwhile proposition. But having heard at close range the Concorde flying, and having seen the outcries in the British papers over the noise levels of the Concorde, I can assure the House that the 120,000 or 130,000 people in the Geelong area will not be very happy to find that they are likely to be guinea pigs in the training operations of this aircraft in Australia. The Concorde is a high noise level aircraft. It may well be that in the future the noise levels will be reduced.

It is not satisfactory to place the training facilities for the Concorde, the Boeing 747 jets and the Australian commercial fleet in close proximity to a rapidly growing community which, according to the State Planning Authority in Victoria, is part of the urban development. It is zoned for urban development. To place a training facility in this position in the manner in which it has been done is an act which should be condemned by this Parliament. The honourable member for McMillan, who is carrying on a conversation, would complain if the facility were put at Warragul or Beaconsfield, but it is to be a long way from his area. The present circuits take the aircraft almost directly over Lara and almost directly over Little River. Lara has a population of about 3,000 people and Little River most likely has a population of something less than 300. But the flight paths are unable adequately to avoid the town of Little River. Mr Doyle and the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) represent this area. Despite the fact that Little River is not more than i mile in length and not more than 200 yeards in width, these aircraft in their training operations have to pass almost directly over this town. According to the technical experts, they cannot avoid it. The Department can do what it likes. Tt can take note of the report, but if the training programmes are such that this cannot be avoided, the people in these areas will have to put up with the additional noise of a minimum increase of 20 per cent in flight operations in their area.

The other thing of which I think this House should be aware - 1 raised this up to 2 years ago in this House - is that these aircraft fly at heights of only 1,500 feet and lower. They pass quite often directly over St Laurence Park, which is an elderly citizens housing area under the control of the Brotherhood of St Laurence. The constant noise is extremely disturbing to these people as it is to other people in the area. With the advent of these other aircraft - I am not in a position to know exactly what the training requirements will be and I do not know whether the Minister for National Development, who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation, is able to inform us - it is not unreasonable to expect that the training requirements of the Concorde aircraft or the Boeing 747s will take in a considerably wider circuit than the one presently used by the Boeing 707s.

Within 4 miles of the outskirts of the township of Lara and much closer to the normal flight paths are the present northern areas of the city of Geelong. Quite properly the Shire of Corio, which covers this area, has protested against this development. Most likely it is concerned both because this airport is being developed and because it does not get any rates for the land on which the airport is built, but that is beside the point. The fact is that

Geelong is developing in a northerly direction towards the township of Lara. In 5 years time a great percentage of the flight paths of these training aircraft will be over highly developed urban areas. I suggest that it is totally unsuitable to develop a training airfield in such a location, and all I can say is that the lack of foresight and planning by the Department in preparing for the Boeing 747s and the entry into the Australian international air operations of the Concorde and other supersonic aircraft is lamentable, to say the least.

It may well be that the Department has made recommendations and that they have been rejected as policy matters by the Treasury or some other Government department. This may well be the true situation. Irrespective of the reason, we are throwing $6im down the drain on development to provide a facility that will destroy the development and peace of mind of a considerable number of residents in my electorate and adjoining electorates.

I believe that the Parliament should censure severely the Government or the Minister concerned, whichever happens to be totally responsible, for the complete lack of foresight and planning which has led to this situation and to the recommendations of the Committee. The people of this area are entitled to a full and proper explanation from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) as to why, when it was known at least 2 years ago that this facility was to be developed, the Government did not carry out an investigation instead of waiting until such time as it was impossible for new facilities, if they were found to be necessary, to be developed in time for the training programme to begin.

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